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Tokyo – Daimon March 13, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Daimon” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Mz

Daimon is an area that is fairly unknown to a majority of tourists in Tokyo.  It is better known as Hamamatsucho or even Shiba.  Being Tokyo, many neighbourhoods are so close to each other that it can be difficult to distinguish between the different areas.  This is one such area.  Stretching from the east side of Hamamatsucho Station all the way to Tokyo Tower, the Daimon area is not the most entertaining areas but one of the secret gems of Tokyo.  For those with little time, there is no real reason to visit, to be completely honest, but if you have the time, you will be rewarded with beauty and tranquility that is not found outside of the area.

Daimon itself is a very bland area.  It is a modern symbol of how most of Japan’s cities look.  It has the appearance of being a small city in Japan with rows of boring rectangular buildings.  In all directions you look, you will find it difficult to tell where you are unless you can see Tokyo Tower.  Adding to the blandness is the fact that the area around Hamamatsucho is very busy transfer point as it is the end station of the Tokyo Monorail which runs to Haneda Airport.  The east side of Hamamatsucho is the home of the Kyu Shiba Rikyu Gardens but unfortunately I haven’t visited that area yet but I hope to do so in the near future.  The garden is considered the most beautiful in Tokyo and must be worth a visit.  I often just head straight from Hamamatsucho Station to Zojoji which is just a few minutes on foot.

Zojoji is a very beautiful Buddhist temple located near the foot of Tokyo Tower.  It is a large complex that houses one of the most tranquil temples in Tokyo.  I have visited many temples and shrines but Zojoji is one of the few inviting temples that encourage people to go inside and pray.  In some temples and shrines, the prayer area can feel a bit strange as the doors may be closed, or the setting can feel a little less inviting.  It is worth the time to just sit down and soak up the atmosphere inside the temple itself.  It is a very quiet atmosphere where you can only hear the various prayers people make as they throw their money into the collection boxes.  As I mentioned in a previous post about the best temples and shrines in Tokyo, Zojoji is one of the most picturesque.  With Tokyo Tower in the background, you can really get a good sense of history and modernity.  The surrounding grounds are also interesting with a small hall adjacent to the main one.  Behind the small hall is a mausoleum for some of the members of the Tokugawa shogunate, one of the first shogun clans to rule Japan.  They are revered in Tokyo and I would say one of the most, if not the most important clan in Japanese history.  Unfortunately you do have to pay a small fee to enter the mausoleum grounds itself.

To the south of Zojoji is Shiba Park.  It is not a very popular park and very often overlooked by most people.  Most tourists will cut through Zojoji to head directly to Tokyo Tower.  I prefer a small stop in Shiba Park as it is somewhat of a unique park in Tokyo.  The entrance makes the park look like a very small park.  It is an open field with trees in the back.  What is hidden is a large mound with stairs heading up the mound at the back of the open field.  Few people, aside from the locals visit this area.  It is a wonderfully quiet area with mostly local tourists exploring the area.  There are a few monuments in the area but for those longing for some nature, specifically a forest like feeling, this area is perfect.  With trees blanketing the entire hill, you will be hard pressed to find a lot of natural sunlight as the trees filter out most of the sunlight.  There are a lot of interesting corners of the park that can be explored.  It won’t take a long time to explore the entire park but it is worth it if you have the time.

Flanking Zojoji are two hotels.  The Prince Park Tower is located to the south of Zojoji on the west side of Shiba Park.  It is a tall modern tower that is a nice hotel to stay in, albeit somewhat less convenient than many other hotels.  There is a small open field located next to the hotel that is a nice way to cut through to Tokyo Tower rather than going through the main route next to Zojoji.  On the north side of Zojoji is the Tokyo Prince Hotel.  This is one of the most written about hotels in Tokyo.  Various novels that are set in Tokyo often use the Tokyo Prince Hotel as one of their locations.  While it is often referred to in various novels, it is also well known for its swimming pool.  In the summer, the pool is open to the public for a fee and it is one of the most popular swimming pools in the city.  This is mainly due to the good views of Tokyo Tower next to the hotel itself.  Unfortunately, for a regular tourist, this is probably not an important place to visit and the building itself is architecturally boring.  The area itself is more important than the hotel but for the curious, there is no harm visiting the hotel itself.

Aside from Zojoji and being a way to access Tokyo Tower, Daimon is not really an important place for tourists to visit.  I feel that it is a very nice hidden gem in the city and worth a visit for Zojoji alone.  It doesn’t take a long time and you can easily visit Tokyo Tower at the same time.  Combining it with an afternoon trip to Roppongi can help as well, and Tokyo Tower is pretty well connected to other areas of Tokyo via the Tokyo Metro System.  It can be difficult to choose but if time is on your side, make plans to visit the Daimon area.

Narita to Tokyo April 13, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Narita to Tokyo” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-kZ

Arriving at Narita Airport can be a daunting challenge.  Not only will you probably be tired, if you don’t speak Japanese, it can be a small challenge to find out how to get into the city itself.  Unless you are rich, taxis are not an option.  There are three main routes into Tokyo.  The first is the Airport Limousine.  The second is to take a train, which has two options.  The simplest has to be the Airport Limousine.  When you exit the arrivals gate, you can usually find the Airport Limousine counter on the main floor.  There are several locations in both terminals.  It’s as simple as saying which hotel you want to go to, or what station.  The Airport Limousine goes to many destinations throughout Tokyo and Yokohama.  It’s also the most convenient way to get to Haneda Airport.  Do note that due to traffic, all times are estimates.  You can be severely delayed if traffic is horrible.

The safest way to get into the city is to use one of two rail companies.  The most popular for tourists is to use the JR Lines.  Using the regular lines is not popular for JR.  It is expensive and slow.  You will more than likely have to change trains at least once, maybe up to three times depending on your destination.  The easiest route is to take the Narita Express.  In fact, they have recently released a new train that makes things more comfortable.  They offer secure locks for your luggage and plugs for your laptop in each row.  Unfortunately, these are not available at all times.  The main advantage of the Narita Express is the number of destinations.  You can go as far as Ofuna, Takao, and Omiya without getting out.  However, most trains will only run from Narita Airport to Yokohama or Ikebukuro.  These trains usually de-couple at Tokyo Station.  Don’t be too afraid of connecting trains if you are headed to Ikebukuro.  If the train only goes to Shinjuku, it’s very simple to change platforms and get to Ikebukuro faster than if you wait.  The Narita Express doesn’t run too often, so it’s best to take the first one you can get, unless you have too many bags.

The cheapest route to Tokyo is to take the Keisei lines.  Their rapid service takes roughly 71 minutes to get to Tokyo, and their Skyliner service takes about 51 minutes.  The Rapid service costs roughly 1000 yen, which makes this a budget travellers dream.  If you want a good balance between cost and comfort, the Skyliner is one of your best bets.  The biggest problem with the Keisei service is choice.  You have your choice of Nippori and Ueno as destinations.  If you are headed to a hostel in Asakusa, this line is perfect.  If you are headed to Shinjuku, this route may not be your ideal choice, but it is a cheaper alternative at relatively the same time.  It’s just not as convenient.  However, as of July 2010, the service will be upgraded and the time will be cut by 15 minutes making this a more popular route in the near future.  The new service will be called the “Sky Express”.  It will feature brand new trains with a new local service being introduced as well.

Regarding what to take and how to get there, that’s your choice.  By far, the cheapest is the Keisei lines.  The most convenient would be the Airport Limousine, if they offer service to your hotel.  The Narita Express offers a very competitive service, but it is a little expensive overall.  In terms of locals, unless your company is paying for it, most people will take the Keisei lines.

Information:

Narita Airport:  http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/
Airport Limousine:  http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/
Narita Express:  http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/index.html
Keisei Skyliner:  http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/keisei_us/top.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Odaiba – Part II) September 22, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Odaiba – Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-gU

After completing a museum tour, heading to the southern area, just east of the museums is a couple of famous attractions.  The first is Palette Town.  It is a large complex that holds various activities, one being Venus Fort, a theme mall.  It’s very similar to the shopping malls on the north side however Venus Fort is modeled after a European city.  On the exterior, it looks like any regular building, but once you enter, you’ll be greeted by a grand walkway full of Italian styled stucco wallpaper.  The shops in this mall tend to be more upscale and there is a huge fountain in the back of the mall.  It’s a famous place for photos and the staff of the mall will happily take your photo.  The end of the mall has a stage for various performances and Mariah Carey made an appearance at one time to promote one of her albums.  In grand style, she was over an hour late for a 15 minute appearance.  If you head to the second floor, you’ll enjoy small walkways connecting various restaurants.  The other main attraction is next door to Venus Fort.  Toyota’s Mega Web, and the Palette Town complex.  Mega Web is a large showcase for Toyota and Lexus cars.  If you have a Japanese driver’s license or an international one, you can, for a fee, test drive any of the Japanese spec Toyota cars around a small private track.  You can easily enter any of the showroom cars, buy a brochure, or take a look at a few of their displays.  There is usually an F1 car, other race cars, a theatre showing Fuji Speedway, and a race simulator.  There is even a corner for children to drive around or just have fun.  If you want to, you can take a tour on an electric, automatic car that will drive around the entire showroom.  Heading over to the far end of the complex, you’ll come to one of the largest Ferris Wheels in the world, and an amusement centre.

From the eastern edge of Palette Town, you can walk over a famous pedestrian bridge, Yumeno Ohashi, which can be picturesque.  It was used in several TV dramas in the past but only a few people ever walk over it.  It is generally too remote for most people to use it, but it’s very good for most movies and dramas for this very reason.  Tokyo has very strict film laws, so closing any other bridge is very difficult.  The size of this bridge makes it very convenient to film on.   From here, there are various buildings that are mainly for office workers, but you can see the odd cosplay event from time to time.  In all honesty, there is almost nothing to see or do in this area.  If you can walk all the way to Ariake station, you’ll be able to visit the Panasonic Center.  It’s a small showcase of Panasonic’s latest technologies and green movement.  They even have a small Nintendo corner, but in reality, unless you love technology, it’s not worth the long walk.  In the past, this was a nice destination as it was the last stop of the Yurikamome line.  Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, but it does provide a nice trip to see the edge of Odaiba.

The bigger attraction in this area of Odaiba is Tokyo Big Site.  It’s the scene of various conventions and exhibits.  The popular Design Festa is held twice a year showcasing some of Tokyo’s craziest artists.  Everything you see will be strange, different, and unique.  It’s something that must be seen to understand.  There are several comic and anime conventions where you’ll be able to see your favourite characters, and even see all of the crazy fans that dress up as their favourite characters.  The annual Tokyo Motorcycle Show is also a popular exhibit, including various technological exhibitions.  It’s impossible to describe each and every convention that can be held in Tokyo Big Site, so visiting their website is essential.  If you don’t want to go to any conventions, or if none of them are interesting at the time of your visit, visiting Tokyo Big Site itself is still pretty interesting.  You can get very nice views of the planes coming in to land at Haneda airport and there are several public works of art.  Unfortunately, unless you want to see an exhibit, there really isn’t any reason to be in the area unless you have time to spare.

Overall, Odaiba is a wonderful place to visit.  For seasoned residents of Tokyo, there isn’t much to see or do.  Most people either come as a couple, usually in their teens, or to drive around.  Odaiba is, for some reason, considered a nice place to drive.  Is Odaiba really a place to visit in Tokyo?  The simple answer is no.  If you don’t have time, it’s not that important.  However, like any other city, if you have time and you finished seeing everything else, by all means, spend a day in Odaiba and you’ll have a great time nonetheless.

This is Part II of a II part series.  Please head back to Part I if you haven’t read it.

Odaiba Information:

Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Odaiba
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odaiba
Map of Odaiba:  http://www.tokyoessentials.com/odaiba-map.html

Palette Town (Japanese Only): http://www.palette-town.com/
Venus Fort: http://www.venusfort.co.jp/multi/index_e.html
Toyota’s Mega Web: http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/English/
Panasonic Center: http://www.panasonic.net/center/tokyo/
Tokyo Big Site:  http://www.bigsight.jp/english/

Design Festa:  http://www.designfesta.com/index_en.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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